Saturday, August 18, 2018

Sports

With two Steinmetzes coaching, another in field, Chi-Hi baseball family affair

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    Chippewa Falls baseball coach Mitch Steinmetz, middle, is joined by his sons Drew, left, an assistant coach, and senior outfielder Lucas.

    Staff photo by Spencer Flaten
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CHIPPEWA FALLS — Baseball brings the Steinmetz family together — literally.

The proof is all over Casper Park. There’s a Steinmetz around every corner on the diamond this spring.

Take a look over at the coaching box by third base and you’ll find Chippewa Falls baseball coach Mitch Steinmetz making the calls as the team’s skipper. Glance directly across from him in the first base box to see Drew Steinmetz, the oldest of Mitch’s sons and an assistant coach for the Cardinals. And if your timing is right, you can find Lucas Steinmetz, the middle child, positioned halfway between them at the plate with a bat in hand.

The game is a staple in the lives of this family, and the Steinmetzes wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s in our blood,” Mitch said. “The whole family, we used to play ball every single night in the summertime. Whether it was in the backyard or at the Little League field, we were always around baseball. Always.”

The Steinmetzes are no stranger to success on the baseball field. Mitch is in his second year as the coach of the Cardinals, but has been in the sport since long before taking the helm at Chippewa Falls. He played for the Tilden Tigers of the Chippewa River Baseball League for 23 years, and has plenty of coaching experience too. He’s managed everything from youth all-star teams to American Legion baseball. It all prepped him pretty well for the varsity job.

“This job opened up, and I said what the heck? I asked the boys if they wanted their dad to coach and they said, ‘Yeah, yeah that would be awesome,’” Mitch said. “So that kind of got me pushed over the edge. It just has kind of all fallen into place.”

Mitch’s love for coaching has carried over to his children. Drew is in his first season as an assistant coach for the high school team, but he’s not new to the game. He manages the Chippewa Falls Post 77 American Legion team in the summer, and took the team to within one game of reaching the Class AAA state tournament in his coaching debut last season. He also did a little bit of coaching in the Northwoods League in Madison.

Drew played baseball at Madison College in 2016 and 2017, where he posted a .305 career batting average with 40 RBIs. Now he plays for the Tilden Tigers in the summer, just like Mitch did.

Having a family connection on the team has made the experience a lot of fun for the first-year assistant.

“I coached a little bit in the Northwoods this past summer, and it was a little awkward, just because I wasn’t really sure if I could talk to the head coach. I didn’t feel like I had a place,” Drew said. “Now if I have a thought or an idea, I know I can bring it up and tell (Mitch) and he’s either going to back me up or say what he thinks should be changed about it. So it’s been a pretty great experience.”

Drew’s college baseball history has brought a helpful perspective to the Cardinals’ coaching staff this year.

“I don’t think I come to a practice where I don’t learn something, and I’m learning it from Drew,” Mitch said. “He learned from a way better coach (at Madison College) than I ever was, and that’s something I’m learning from. It’s higher-end stuff, not run-of-the-mill high school stuff.”

Lucas, a senior at Chippewa Falls, is in the middle of his second year on varsity for the Cardinals. He bats near the top of the team’s lineup and was an All-Big Rivers honorable mention last spring. He’s also known for his talent on the ice, where he led the Cardinals’ hockey team in goals this winter.

For him, the family has been around for his entire athletic career so it’s nothing new.

“Honestly, I don’t think anything of it,” Lucas said, drawing a hearty laugh from his father and brother. “But I don’t think anyone else would have the opportunity to have their dad and their brother as a coach. It’s crazy, because I feel like any high schooler would dream about that.

“To be able to do the things that we enjoy as a family, it’s unbelievable.”

It’s made even better by the fact that he gets to close out his prep career playing good baseball alongside his father and brother.

“This is like the big leagues for kids like us, and it’s really, really fun to play competitive baseball that actually matters with your family,” Lucas said.

The Chippewa Falls-Steinmetz connection doesn’t end with those three, either. The second-oldest Steinmetz son, Jordan, was an all-state selection by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association three years in a row when he played for Chippewa Falls from 2015-2017. He was an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore and junior and a third-team selection as a senior. Now he plays hockey for the Janesville Jets in the NAHL.

There are still more set to come through the ranks too. Ben Steinmetz is a freshman at Chippewa Falls and plays baseball at the JV level, and 12-year-old Paige Steinmetz plays a lot of softball.

The Steinmetzes have been a fixture on area diamonds for years, and there’s no indication that will be changing anytime soon.


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